Why are there no good drugs to treat obesity?

Dr. David L. Katz, MD, MPH
Preventive Medicine
We have developed potent treatments for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, infections, stroke, and almost every other condition we might add to the list. Why can’t we come up with one for obesity?

I have an answer. You would, I trust, expect that a fish with an infection could be treated with an antibiotic. But I also trust you would not expect any medicine to fix the problem of a fish out of water. There is nothing a pill could do, short of turning a fish into something other than a fish, that could fix the out-of-water problem. And obesity is just like that.

Just as it is normal for a fish to breathe in water and asphyxiate out of it, it is normal for humans to turn a surplus of calories into an energy reserve -- namely, body fat. You can save the fish -- just not with a pill. Throw it back in the water.

Many people with obesity are overwhelmed. They cannot fix the problem with the resources at their disposal -- and are desperate for any new option. The victims of epidemic obesity need help they aren’t getting -- and will accept it even in the form of a pill you couldn’t pay most people to take!
Nicole Florence, MD
Internal Medicine
There are actually new treatment options for patients who struggle with chronic obesity. They can add to healthy choices and lifestyle changes, and assist a patient to their weight loss goals. It is important to be assessed by a physician who is familiar with these medications. These physicians understand the way these medicines work, as well as who will really benefit form taking them. You can discuss this with your primary care physciain or ask to be referred to a bariatrician. However, keep in mind that a pill by itself is never the answer. These medications are used along with supportive behavioral changes in diet, exercise and weight loss.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.